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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 19

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1 WHEN the LORD your God exterminates the nations whose land he is giving you, and you take their place and settle in their towns and houses, 2you are to set apart three cities in the land which he is giving you to occupy. 3Divide into three districts the territory which the LORD your God is giving you as a holding, and determine where each city shall lie. These are to be places in which homicides may take sanctuary.

4This is the kind of homicide who may take sanctuary there and save his life: one who strikes another accidentally and with no malice aforethought; 5for instance, the man who goes into a wood with another to fell trees, and as he swings the axe to cut a tree the head glances off the tree, hits the other man, and kills him. The homicide may take sanctuary in any one of these cities, and his life is to be safe. 6Otherwise, when the dead man's next-of-kin on whom lies the duty of vengeance pursued him in the heat of temper, he might overtake him if the distance were great, and take his life, although the homicide was not liable to the death penalty because there had been no previous enmity on his part. 7That is why I command you to set apart three cities.

8If the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as he promised on oath to your forefathers, and gives you the whole land which he promised to them, 9because you keep all the commandments that I am laying down today and carry them out by loving the LORD your God and by conforming to his ways for all time, then you shall add three more cities of refuge to these three. 10Let no innocent blood be shed in the land which the LORD your God is allotting to you, or blood-guilt will fall on you.

11When one person has a feud with another, and lies in wait for him, attacks him, and strikes him a fatal blow, and then takes sanctuary in one of these cities, 12the elders of his own town must send to fetch him and hand him over to the next-of-kin to be put to death. 13You are to show him no mercy, but rid Israel of the guilt of innocent blood; then all will be well with you.

14Do not move your neighbour's boundary stone, fixed by the men of former times in the holding which you will occupy in the land the LORD your God is giving you for your possession.

15A single witness may not give evidence against anyone in the matter of any crime or sin which he may have committed: a charge must be established on the evidence of two or of three witnesses.

16When a malicious witness comes forward to accuse a person of a crime, 17the two parties to the dispute must appear in the presence of the LORD, before the priests or the judges then in office; 18if, after careful examination by the judges, he is proved to be a false witness giving false evidence against his fellow, 19treat him as he intended to treat his fellow. You must rid yourselves of this wickedness. 20The rest of the people when they hear of it will be afraid, and never again will anything as wicked as this be done among you. 21You must show no mercy: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot!

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